Mallard Creek beat Butler 36-28 Friday night in a high school football showdown that might have left more questions than answers.
Did the second-ranked Mavericks lose their focus after bulldozing their way to a 29-2 lead in the second quarter?
Or was No. 6 Butler headed for a comeback victory until losing its starting kicker and then its star player?
In a game with 25 penalties and mistakes of all kind, head coaches Mike Palmieri of Mallard Creek and Brian Hales of Butler probably will need several more weeks to sort out the answers.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
Without question, Mallard Creek was king of the game’s opening 17 minutes. The Mavericks drove 90 yards on their first possession, capped by a scoring run by new starting quarterback Casey Kelly. They made it 14-0 by going 80 yards on their next series, scoring on a 15-yard pass from Kelly to Coleman Jeffcoat.
Kelly scored on a short run early in the third quarter, and after Butler got a safety when Kelly was called for intentional grounding in the end zone, Mallard Creek scored its fourth touchdown on a blocked punt.
At that point, it was 29-2 with 7 minutes, 49 seconds left in the half.
Butler then went on a 20-0 run, but the Bulldogs were hurt badly when standout Keyon Lesane was ejected in the final minute of the first half after being called for his second personal foul of the game. Lesane had set up a touchdown with a 70-yard reception, had run for a touchdown, and had intercepted a pass.
A few minutes earlier, Butler kicker Sulli Lewis was injured on a punt in which Mallard Creek was called for roughing the kicker. That was among 13 personal fouls called by officials in the first half.
In the second half, Mallard Creek stayed mostly on the ground, rushing for 205 yards. The Mavericks sealed the victory when Jacob Roberts picked off a Butler pass at the Mallard Creek 31 with two minutes left.
Records: Mallard Creek is 1-0; Butler is 1-1.
Three who mattered
Charles Mincey Jr. (Mallard Creek): Mincey rushed 14 times for 164 yards, gaining 138 of those yards in the second half.
Keyon Lesane (Butler): In his 15 minutes of action, Lesane made a difference. He caught a 70-yard pass to set up Butler’s second touchdown, ran for the Bulldogs’ third score, and intercepted a pass.
Jacob Roberts (Mallard Creek): Roberts fell on a blocked punt and scored a touchdown in the second quarter, and his interception stopped Butler’s final drive.
▪ Friday’s game was the first high school football contest played at the SportsPlex in Matthews. The stadium seats about 4,000 (double the capacity of Butler’s) and is home to the Charlotte Independence soccer team.
▪ Mallard Creek was called for 16 penalties, totaling 184 yards. Butler had 10 penalties for 103 yards. In the first half, though, the penalty yardage was nearly even.
▪ Casey Kelly was the starter at quarterback for the Mavericks. Kelly, 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, transferred in the offseason from Buffalo (N.Y.) St. Joseph High to Mallard Creek. Jadyn Washington, a senior, battled Kelly for the starting spot in preseason.
▪ Butler quarterback Christian Peters completed 10 of 27 passes but deserved a better fate. Five of his passes were dropped by receivers.
▪ Butler junior Darius Law did a nice job as emergency fill-in punter. He had two kicks for a 36-yard average.
▪ The first play of the game set the tone. Mallard Creek was called for a penalty. One play later, Butler got its first penalty.
▪ Mallard Creek took an 8-4 edge in the series into Friday night’s game.
▪ Both teams are off next week. Mallard Creek resumes play Sept. 7 at home against Berry Academy. Butler is home Sept. 7 against Richmond Senior.